Category Archives: faith

Plush nativities and communion…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But Christmas always brings out the blogger in me. Most likely because of a long and conflicted history with the holiday and my need to externally process.

This year, with a toddler, we have entered the vortex of American Christmas. “Do you guys ‘do Santa’?” (which is a creepy question). Grandparents are wanting to buy her presents, which leads to conversations about the kinds of toys we want to have in the house, and how much regulation is appropriate for us to exercise in that realm. She also has her own interests, which makes me more inclined to impulse buy all the Daniel Tiger merchandise, bison toys, and musical instruments I see around town. (Yes, bison. That’s her favorite animal.)

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Something New and Good: An Intense Mom’s Gospel

The last 16.5 months of my life have been amazing. As Moira grows, I grow as her mother.

Some of that growth is fun. She learns new words. My heart melts when she says, “books!” first thing in the morning. She loves to swim. I love to swim with her.

Some of that growth is not fun. She gets new teeth. I learn that going to dinner with her at 8:30pm is a terrible idea, even on vacation. She learns to wait. I learn not to fear meltdowns in public (because, like many other animal instincts, fearing only makes them more aggressive, while not fearing seems to pacify them).


Somehow, Lewis and I thought that things with a baby would either be happy-sunshine-fun (him) or miserable-scary-impossible (me). For the past 16.5 months so many of our date nights have ended in the same conversation.

“I don’t understand this…intensity that I feel,” I say.

“I just wish you could relax and not let things bother you,” he says.

Then I freak out that I’m freaking out. Obsess on not obsessing. Get intense about not wanting to be an intense mom. Continue reading

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Another blogger writes about racism and where it begins

So every blogger on in America is telling us how to respond to the shootings in Charleston. Everyone is trying to say the one profound thing that’s going to send an arrow straight to the heart of racism and explode it.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because, like many have said, we need to talk about it. We, the white folks (who seem to all have blogs), need to talk about it. We also need to listen to our black, brown, and everything else friends. To fall back on my grad school vocabulary: it’s time for everyone to interrogate whiteness.

So this blog post does not contain the one nugget that’s going to change racism. Continue reading

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Golden Birthday Challenge: Days 26-30

Day 26: A new wine

Lewis was out of town. Moira went to bed at 7:15. Why not? I’m trying to become literate in wine. Okay, white wine, because I get red wine headaches. Okay, South American white wine, because a woman only has so much brain room for literacy.

This was a Sauvignon Gris. Not sure what my wine-expert friends would think of that, but there you go.

It was lovely when paired with a bath and a good book.


Day 27: Preparing and eating rutabaga.

Confession: I got the idea for this one from Moira’s favorite baby food. Ella’s Kitchen Apple, Spinach, Rutabaga is our best bet for getting nutrients into her when whatever solid food we’ve tried that mealtime is flat out fail.

As odd as it sounds, this was not a spur of the moment “oh-gosh-I-need-a-new-thing.” I’d been trying to get to this for weeks. Rutabaga is harder to come by than you would think.

Rutabaga as a vegetable, I found after trying a few different approaches, is, like most vegetables, best when covered in melted cheese.


Day 28: Something.

I’m not going to tell the new thing I did this day. But it involved the courage to speak my mind in an intimidating situation in which I’ve been pretty passive. Well, not any more.

Day 29: Letting Moira have “quiet time” instead of nap time

She simply wasn’t sleepy enough to fall asleep on her own. Instead of growing desperate to the point of nursing her to sleep, I left Moira in her crib for an hour. She sat quietly and played with her doll (and the curtains…and the poorly placed iPod that she could reach…) for an hour. Aside from going in to rescue the iPod, I let her do it.

When I came in at the end of the hour, she was leaning back against her womb-sounds bear, holding her doll, one knee up, elbow resting on that knee, pacifier in mouth, looking at me like, “I’ve got your nap right here.”

The rest of the day…just fine. God is teaching me that he, not my daughter’s sleep schedule is my help and my strength.

Day 30: Posting an honest response to a blog entry that moved me. 

I’m not a big commenter on blogs. And by that I mean I just don’t do it. Maybe it’s because I feel like a groupie. Maybe it’s because I see the sort of things that people usually comment and think, “Dear Lord, don’t ever let that be me.”

But Sarah Bessey’s latest post about love at 2:07am hit home, and I just had to let her know.

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Something New and Good: We are Three

Moira is a month old. Five weeks, actually. It’s amazing how much each week of age matters at this point.

I’ve been hesitant to sit down and try to write anything meaningful, because life has not been marked by long stretches of uninterrupted thinking as of late.

It’s not actually entirely Moira’s doing. I often feel like she senses when we are about to have guests and decides to time her epic naps to avoid interaction. She’s an introvert. Or she obligingly naps through errands and restaurant meals. So I have lots of uninterrupted visits and meals…but that the time for reflecting and thinking is allotted to her 20 minute catnaps or 15 minute stretches of peaceful looking around. The rest of the time we are breastfeeding, changing diapers, and walking off my baby weight.

Moira - May 4 152

And I’ll be perfectly honest. Sometimes I just use those catnaps and peaceful time to stare at her.

But, sometimes in the shower, or when we are driving (Moira is a champion car rider), I’ve given some thought to this first month. It’s in snippets, but in this case the form is the content.

So…in the first month of being a family of three, here were the things that surprised me. Continue reading

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The Theology of Woody Allen

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” – Woody Allen

One would expect the neurotic, muttering, Woody Allen to say this. It fits with all of his fretful, eternally pessimistic movie-personas (or rather his one persona, reincarnate in every film he makes).

But what surprised me the other day was that this quote, more than any Scripture, had come to describe how I believe God relates to me.

We’re constantly being admonished to be careful what we pray for, to never say never, etc. Looking around, I think that we, the ironic generation, have come to believe that this is how God relates to us- ironically.

God is a controlling boss, who makes you work the weekend, just because he heard you had plans to go out of town.

God is an older sibling who takes the last cookie that you’ve been saving and saving.

God is like….”rain on your wedding day. A free ride, when you’ve already paid. The good advice that you just didn’t take. And who would have thought, it fig’rs.” (That’s the hymn for this theology).

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Something New and Good: Hello 30’s

So I’ve said my good-byes to my 20’s. Tomorrow I turn 30.

I will begin this decade as a mother and wife. As a homeowner. With a stable job, and a side gig I really love. I have two dogs.

In one sense, none of that “external stuff” changes you or grows you up. You can still be a raving lunatic with all those boxes checked. Because who you are determines what kind of mother, wife, employee, neighbor you will be. The uptight kind? The scatter-brained kind? The generous kind? The faithful kind? That has a lot less to do with the hats you are wearing than the head underneath them.

However, in another sense. I do think that those things changed me. Getting married, strange as it sounds, made me more independent. Not independent of Lewis, but independent of all the people I’d looked to for approval. Someone trusts me with his life and his heart, and this has given me more confidence and determination than anything else I’ve ever done. Someone loves me for who I am, and the condemning world can kiss my well-loved ass.

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Something New and Good: Good-bye 20’s

I’m turning 30 at the end of this month. Officially out of my 20’s.

No longer can I assertively talk about fashion, music, or technology with absolute certainty that what I am saying is current and hip. No longer can I wear whatever I want to and assume I will come off as “young and carefree.” No longer can I decide willy nilly when to wear sunblock, concealer, and whether or not to take off my makeup at night.

I’m entering a decade that will likely include the advent of wrinkles, dress codes, and age-appropriateness.

Before I greet my 30’s, I’d like to look back at my 20’s and give them a proper reflection.

It was a great decade. Lewis entered the scene. I lived in London. It was actually in 2004 that I got my first passport, at 20 years old. I’ve been to 26 countries since then, many of them multiple times. And I enjoyed them greatly. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. God was faithful.

Amersterdam. Age 23.

Amersterdam. Age 23.

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Pregnant Lady or Hobbit? [the ring of power]

I need to apologize to my mother. For the last 30 years I have been so assured of my own immortality that I’ve probably terrified her within an inch of her own. Over Skype, “Surprise, Mom! I’m in the middle east! Hear that? It’s the call to prayer!” Late one night while home from college, “I really want to move to Uganda.” As a 16-year-old backing down the driveway with a breakfast taco in one hand and less than all my attention on the rearview mirror. As a 9 year old, squeezing myself into the washing machine.

Look, Ma! No safety code!

Look, Ma! No safety code!

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Christmas is for Grown Ups

Throughout my adult life, I’ve had a conflict with Christmas.

There were the “social constructivist” years, in which I was loathe to celebrate the holiday because I believed it was nothing more than a modern American holiday celebrating sentimentality and excess. I was so much fun to be around.

There were the “socially conscious” years, in which I believed that at Christmas, the only redemptive thing to do was to celebrate Jesus by donating to non-profits instead of buying actual gifts. I think my siblings are still enjoying their “share of a dairy cow.”

There were the “buy local” years, in which I thought that supporting local artisans would be as ethical as donating to orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. I’m a sucker for malnourished people.

Then there was last year, when I abandoned all of that and just gifted the people I love with things I thought they would like. Only to find out that Christmas is not a time when you can just get gifts for people you love. There’s a list of other people (many of whom you do not know personally) who must be given gifts and it’s actually pretty awkward when you don’t. Trust me. You are not in college anymore. You can’t scrimp on Christmas gifts.

Now there’s this year. The year I set out to make peace with the reality of Christmas. And so I found myself at 9:45 on a Sunday morning standing in Macy’s looking for some way to get all the gifts on my list for less money than the cost of insulating our entire house. Which is also happening this month.

The lights of La Cantera

The lights of La Cantera

We did it like pro’s too. We got there early and snagged a prime spot. We waited for stores to open. And hunted for deals.

Because I don’t have enough money to buy a whole Christmas list of fair trade artisan goods. At least not the kind that people actually like. I can’t afford to donate enough to World Vision to get “plush goat toy gifts” for all the kids on my list. So and North Star Mall and one day trip to Fredericksberg later…I was done (thank goodness for 10,000 Villages, a pleasant and ethical resource, but only for the adult women on your list).


With Christmas on the horizon, Lewis practices shopping.

With Christmas on the horizon, Lewis practices shopping.

And then…I gift wrapped the suckers. (Caveat: this year’s ethical effort is recycled wrapping. All of my presents are wrapped in reused paper grocery bags and yarn. But I’m telling people we were going with the theme, “Brown paper packages tied up with string.”)

Because part of being an adult is that you don’t get to bring a manifesto instead of presents. You don’t get to show up with a treatise on the rampant materialism and excess of America instead of a baked goods. You don’t get to ruin how everyone else celebrates Christmas, and if you want to be a part of it (meaning you want to share in the relationships forged over shared meals and memories), you have got participate. Without being “that sister/cousin/niece/grandkid.” Without being disdainful.

And in the true spirit of American Christmas, I got carried away. I made an impulse buy for my unborn daughter (not on my list)… at Restoration Hardware Baby and Child, all the while worrying that I would never be able to create a family Christmas tradition focused on Jesus and generosity. Wondering how I would mold her young mind to resist the siren song of greed…I bought her two $18 toys from the single most pretentious children’s catalogue on earth.

So I did Christmas like America does Christmas…and yet…

I also got an adult-sized portion of Christmas shame this time around (from myself, no one in their right mind shames a working, pregnant woman for this stuff). No Christmas cards went out from our mailbox. No lights wrapped around our porch. No nativity is set out on our dining room table. There’s not a pine needle to be seen in this house. Nothing has been (or will be) baked and distributed to mailmen, cleaning helpers, neighborhood patrolmen, and co-workers. I didn’t even deliver grapefruit this year.

In a lot of ways, I felt like I failed at Christmas. I failed at the principled Christmas of my past and the commercial Christmas of my present. I haven’t been warm and fuzzy, and I haven’t really paid that much attention to Jesus.

And that is why Christmas is for grownups like me. For us, Christmas isn’t magical. It’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s stressful. It’s conflicted. It’s expensive. And we can’t possibly pull it off flawlessly with joy in our hearts, goodies in our ovens, all the while remembering the “reason for the season.”

Christmas, this year, rather than being this ultra reflective time of special devotionals, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and finding that perfect non-profit to bless…was a mess. It damn near slipped by without my even noticing, but for the full calendar of holiday parties. I certainly didn’t slow down and reflect on advent.

This Christmas, I needed Christmas. I needed Jesus, because I can’t even celebrate his birthday well. This Christmas I got to remember why God had to come down to earth in the first place.